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February In Chicago. Winter Nears Its End

February In Chicago. Winter Nears Its End

February 1, 2023

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

Anyone who thinks that Chicago is cold and boring in February has never adventured with us! It’s been rather warm so far, but February is usually Chicago’s snowiest month, so perhaps we’ll be blessed with some real winter weather soon. In any case, the weather almost never makes us change our adventure plans, so here we go!

St. Valentine’s Day is almost upon us, gentlemen, so be prepared in advance. Make a simple, but tastefully extravagant dinner, something that you can cover, put in the refrigerator or freezer, and quickly finish in the oven on the 14th. Have some wine to serve with dinner, and cocoa to sip with dessert. Is there a favorite romantic movie to watch while getting cozy on the couch? You’re all set, it seems.

February In Chicago. Winter Nears Its End

Let’s not forget that February is a short month, so get an early start and meet us today, Thursday, February 9th, to celebrate National Pizza Day! Who knew that there’s a day reserved just for our favorite party food? Marie’s Pizza, https://www.mariespizzachicago.com, 4127 W. Lawrence Ave., one of our favorite pizza places, has been serving thin crust pizza since 1940.  I’ve reserved a table, starting at 6pm, so please don’t be late.

Yes, yes, let’s get several pizzas, what ever toppings you want. This is thin crust style, what everyone in Chicago knew and grew up eating before deep dish was invented in the 70’s. How about a salad for starters? Their Greek salads are fabulous; here, try mine.

St. Valentine’s Day is mid-week this year, so today, Saturday, February 11th, is the perfect day for a special surprise for your Valentine. Feel free, this morning, to join us at Bang Bang Pie Shop, https://www.bangbangpie.com, 2051 N. California Ave., for excellent coffee, an unusual breakfast and, of course, pie. I’ll be having the Blood Orange Meringue, and my sweetheart, I’m sure, will enjoy the Pretzel French Silk that just oozes chocolate. For you two, Apple Raspberry and Key Lime? Are they as delicious as they look? Mmmm, mmm. Now it’s time for a romantic adventure.

Aristotle wrote, centuries ago, “Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” Where better to capture that spirit than at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave., https://www.artic.edu? We will be heading towards the Greek and Roman sculptures that so vividly capture beauty, grace and movement. That it’s all done in marble, painstakingly carved and polished, using only hand tools, is just breathtaking.  Look as this Roman bust: it’s been carved so thinly that light even shines through the marble from behind. Wow.

Now let’s wander over to the Tiffany glass displays, with the bright flowing colors, so translucent and glowing from the light within. The new masterpiece to this collection is the Hartwell Memorial Window, “…a pinnacle achievement in the medium of stained glass…More than 100 years ago, Agnes F. Northrop designed the window for Tiffany Studios as a commission from Mary Hartwell in honor of her husband, Frederick Hartwell, for the Central Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island…” as the Institute explains. Explanations will never do justice to this magnificent work, we’ll have to just stand, look with open eyes and open hearts, and take in this incredible beauty.

A slow stroll through the Impressionists is always engaging, don’t you think? They can be so different from each other; look at the way this Toulouse-Lautrec just captures the excitement of Parisian nightlife, while over here Monet captures both stillness and gentle motion in “Water Lilies”. Check out “Stacks of Wheat” and “Stacks of Wheat (End of Day)”; they are different and still authentically engaging. Renoir’s portraits are obviously Impressionist, yet the way he captures grace and motion are new, exciting and different from other painters. These and the other artists we see here revolutionized artwork by rejecting the standard themes of the time: portraits of wealthy patrons, or famous scenes from the Bible or Greco-Roman mythology. Their works are most “impressive” creatively and artistically, capturing human and natural life with insight and flair that delights us to this day.

We’ve been here a while, so let’s take in Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, before we leave.  Looking at this always has me feeling that we’re watching the wind swirl about on a breezy night, with the brightest stars shining through as we look out over the town from our hillside vantage point. This will undoubtedly set the stage for romance later this evening. Have fun, you love-birds.

As we all know, today, February 12th, is the final winter holiday: Super Bowl Sunday! We’re going to a neighbor’s house to cheer and celebrate, share recipes for Buffalo Wings and hot sauces, and basically overindulge. We’ll laugh at the commercials and yell at the refs (as if they can hear us). Then we’ll go home and lament that the last of the Christmas decorations must now be put away. Whether or not you enjoy watching the spectacle, or perhaps just the commercials, have some fun today with friends and family, drive carefully, and have a great time. We’ll get together soon.

We’ve already romanced our Valentines, so today, Tuesday, February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day, pick your sweetheart up after work and take her home to quietly enjoy the home-cooked dinner you’ve already prepared, and before you cozy on the couch for the movie, really impress her with a thorough after dinner clean-up. After all, as Lao Tzu wrote, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while deeply loving someone gives you courage”, so doing dishes and wiping counters is a snap, right?

We’ll be just wonderful tonight, thank you for asking. We both wish the same to you.

Did you know that today, Saturday, February 18th, is Drink Wine Day? Time to eat dinner and drink wine at a Greek restaurant. After all, the Greeks were the first to make a science of fermenting grapes into delicious wines, so let’s make it a group outing to Kefi, https://www.kefi.restaurant, 12200 S. Harlem Ave., Palos Heights, where we can take our time indulging in one of the world’s most satisfying cuisines, while savoring a few of the finest wines the Mediterranean has to offer. Arrive hungry, as well as thirsty, because this place is amazing. Just look at the menus and wine lists, I want two bites of everything they make. But we can all order and share around, so some saganaki to start? Yes, the grilled octopus is my choice, you’ll have the dolmades? Did I hear someone order loukaniko, the house-made sausage? That should get us all started, and mmm-mmm-mmm, doesn’t it all smell so good?

For dinner, can we all agree on spanokotiropita, moussaka, Greek style half-chicken, and bakalao? That should be enough food to cover us all. But let’s not forget that we’re here to drink wine, and the wine list is extensive and impressive, with quality choices from many of Greece’s best vineyards. Since we’re having all these varied foods, why don’t we get two bottles of whatever the staff wine master recommends for our meals? We can all share tastes of those as well.

Oh, look, here’s dinner already. It all looks, and smells so delicious, and incredibly, everything actually tastes better than it smells, doesn’t it? I love when we all get together like this, talking four conversations at once, catching up across the table on all our recent doings. There’s nothing better than great food and delicious wine to make our outings special.  Thank you all so much.

Tomorrow on the Western calendar, is the first day of Lent, 40 days of prayer and fasting in preparation for Easter. That means today, Tuesday, February 21st, is Mardi Gras, also known, especially around Chicago, as Paczki Day. Yes, indeed, it’s time to enjoy that filled pastry treat, “пакунки” in Ukrainian, immersing our taste and other senses in a sugary delight that will leave us with satisfied tummies and sticky fingers. And that’s just for breakfast!  This evening please come celebrate with us, starting at 5:00pm, at Lynfred Winery, 971 N. Milwaukee Ave., Wheeling, https://www.lynfredwinery.com, where it’s time for the annual “Paczki Pairing”. Lynfred Wineries has a long history, and they make award-winning wines from grapes they gather from Illinois, Michigan, Washington, California and even Chile.

Tonight we get to experience four of their wines, specially curated to match our raspberry Пакунок,  from Central Continental Bakery, 101 S. Main St., Mt. Prospect, https://centralcontinentalbakery.com, a locally famous cake, bread and pastry shop that makes great ponchyky (paczki) especially this time of year.  Now, sip slowly, and really taste each of the four wine offerings: Sparkling Brut, Sparkling Rosé, Zinfandel (2019), and Ruby Reserve. Take small bites from your paczek, to make it last throughout. Isn’t this all delicious and wonderful? I can’t leave without a bottle of that Zinfandel. Which sample will you choose? Drive carefully!

This evening, Saturday, March 4th,  why don’t we have dinner about 6:00pm, at Park Tavern, 5433 Park Place, Rosemont, https://www.parktavernrosemont.com, where I really want to try one of their burgers. The menu has much more to offer, but that “Black Label Double Double” has already got my stomach growling. The burgers are served on potato buns and the fries are hand-cut. I’m ready to dive in, how about you? Isn’t this fun and delicious? I really like the comfortable, casual atmosphere and this food is another great find.

All finished? OK, now we can just wander next door for the 7:30pm show at Zanies Comedy Club, 5437 Park Pl., https://rosemont.zanies.com, where Chicago’s own, Pat Tomasulo, will present us with his hilarious stand up comedy that pokes fun at American tourists, politics, destination weddings, and a wide assortment of other human foibles. I love this guy; he’s incredibly funny and right on point, without being very hostile, crude or vulgar. I haven’t laughed like this in a long time; there should be more comics like Pat.

Once again, friends, we’ve traveled about the Chicago area for an entire month, enjoying each other’s company, and finding new places to visit again.  Until next month, live your adventures to the fullest.

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